A-level and GCSE exams will not be held in Northern Ireland this summer due to Covid-19, Stormont’s education minister Peter Weir confirmed.
Instead, grades could be based on measures like teachers’ predictions and the results of mock exams already taken.
Schools will close from Monday.
Mr Weir said: “Our priority is that students receive fair and equitable grades that reflect hard work.”
He said CCEA awarding organisations will develop a “robust” process for awarding grades.
The closure of schools has left parents scrambling to make alternative child care measures.
Some could stay open to allow health service workers to attend their jobs.
Qualifications body the CCEA welcomed clarity around school closures and cancellation of the summer examinations timetable.
It said: “We’d like to reassure learners, parents, teachers and school leaders that CCEA will continue to work urgently with the Department of Education and other stakeholders, to finalise a solution for examinations.
“We fully appreciate the uncertainty that students and teachers are experiencing and recognise the need for clarity, as soon as possible.
“CCEA has a range of tried and tested methods for awarding grades, which we will explore alongside other options with our counterparts across the UK.
“We will prioritise final solutions for A-level examinations, then GCSE terminal examinations, the AS qualifications and finally modular GCSE.
“In parallel, we will work with other awarding organisations so our approaches are similar.
“We will also work with vocational qualification providers to ensure there are solutions for those qualifications.”
It added: “In these unprecedented circumstances, we recognise that the decisions we have to take will be challenging.
“We can assure everyone that we will be guided by examination experts and will ensure that our solution is fair and reliable.”
Mr Weir said some schools would remain open to children of key workers like police and the fire service, so they could continue in their jobs.
The aim is to keep the number of pupils coming into schools to a minimum.
He said: “However, there will need to be some flexibility to ensure our key workers are supported.
“It is impossible to assess at this stage what the exact demand will be in relation to the number of key worker children who will need to attend school.”